A Nissan that could scare a Porsche 911? That'll be the Skyline. Chris Bradbury finds out more...
The R32 GT-R
Millions of people have driven a Nissan Skyline GT-R on the limit. I don’t mean the sit-inside-and-start-the-engine type of drive one, rather the stare-at-the-screen-pushing-buttons kind of drive one. The Skyline is a cult car, known the world over through computer games such as Gran Turismo, and is the granddaddy of the PlayStation-generation dream machines. The reality is, of course, not that many people have actually
driven one, but most people will tell you that they are fantastic to drive and would love to have a go.
R32 is a PlayStation favourite
So where did this fascination with the Skyline start? Well, it was a lot further back than most people might think - the first Skyline appeared in 1957 badged a Prince rather than a Nissan and packing a 1.5 litre motor. The famous GT-R badge was first used in 1969 and can still be found on the nose of the new Nissan GT-R, albeit with the Skyline badge dropped. In between all this, in 1989 in fact, the Nissan R32 Skyline GT-R was born and most enthusiasts would argue that this is the car responsible for creating the legend.
The R32 is one of the most iconic Japanese sports cars ever built. It populated the walls of children’s bedrooms as well as workshops and garages around the world. Wheels
The original 1957 Skyline
Magazine in Australia nicknamed it ‘Godzilla’ upon their first test drive in 1989 and the name stuck.Most people who have ever driven an R32 GT-R Skyline will immediately comment on the engine. Nissan’s RB26DETT motor was build by Nissan’s Motorsport Division or ‘Nismo’ for short.It is a six cylinder, iron block DOHC engine with a pair of turbos bolted on for good measure. Hard as nails and twice as durable, it is an engineering masterpiece. The engine was highly tuneable straight from the factory and an exhaust system, pair of air filters, 0.9 bar of boost pressure and an ECU remap will see you pushing out 400bhp.
R32s are serious driver’s cars and having driven the R32, R33 and R34 GTR I’m consistently
R32 GT-R Nismo
impressed by the R32’s nimble surefootedness right the way through the driving experience. It’s extremely rare these days to find a stock example of this car on the UK roads as they were never officially sold here. If you are ever lucky enough to drive or own a stock example you will understand immediately why everybody raves about them. The ATTESA four wheel-drive system provides bags of grip and response, and is able to make the car behave like it is rear wheel-drive. This gives the R32 better turn in and almost perfect balance as you attack a corner. While later versions of this system in the R33 and R34 are a big leap ahead in technological terms, the R32 has a very raw edge that still brings a massive grin to your face every time you open it up. The car, after all, was designed as a Group A race car.
R32 GT-R V spec
Production of the R32 GTR ran from 1989 – 1994 and incorporated more than just a single variant. One of the most interesting was the V Spec, or ‘Victory Specification’, which was released in response to Nismo’s Group A & N victories in 1992/1993 and had a re-worked ATTESA system and Brembo brakes. But best of all was the N1 version, which effectively was a full on race car. Only 228 were ever built and they came with the re-worked N1 engine. But one of the Skyline’s big bonuses was that not only did it have crushing performance but it also looked good. Compared to the good-looking but chunky new GT-R, the R32 was reasonably small and had a pretty shape with crisp, subtle lines. In gunmetal grey or black they have an understated menace and don’t need the big spoilers and wide wheels that were so often added later on.
The GT-R is still serving as a halo effect for Nissan and whereas around the time of the R32 most people associated the brand with humdrum Cherrys and Sunnys, those in the know knew that the company was also responsible for a true giant killer. The R32 Skyline was being compared to the far more expensive Porsche 911 Turbos and Ferrari Testarossas in its day, and now, almost twenty years on, the Nissan GT-R is still giving supercar makers sleepless nights.
PH Hero Rating: 9/10